Several news outlets are reporting that a Chinese shopping website may have been outed last week as a Ponzi scheme, with the number of victims estimated in the hundreds of thousands and rumors that the founder had skipped town along with senior executives and the bulk of investor funds. While Yao Jianqing, the alleged mastermind of the scheme, was arrested last Thursday, there has been no word on the approximately $157 million of investor funds said to me missing. While much remains unknown about the purported fraud, rumors that the Chinese government was preparing to investigate and freeze bank accounts prompted an apparent run on several large Chinese banks in the city of Wuyishan.
According to limited details that have come out of China, Jianqing established the website bfbfl.com (which has since been shut down), which established an online shopping site, in addition to selling items, solicited money from potential investors with promises that they could expect to recoup their original investment in as little as 100 days and make a profit within 400 days. The "rebate mall", as it has been referred to, was extremely popular in China, with estimates that over 200,000 individuals were solicited over 23 provinces in China. After holding several meetings in early May to solicit new members, the company apparently shut its doors and its executives fled town. As news of the possible fraud spread, it was reported that many investors ransacked and apparently destroyed the company's offices in Fuzhou.
More as details emerge.